CALGARY, AB – The defending West Division champion Calgary Roughnecks will battle the Vancouver Stealth at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 3 at 7:00 pm to open their 2015 season.
Riggers coach Curt Malawsky has just one thing on his mind as Calgary begins its quest for another berth in the Champion’s Cup Final.
“The one word I would say on last season was devastating;” stated coach Curt Malawsky. “To be two minutes and fourteen seconds away from winning a championship is a tough pill to swallow.”
Last season, the Roughnecks and Stealth both had very different trajectories as one played their way to the Champion’s Cup Finals and the other earned the 2nd overall pick in the draft.
“Obviously there’s a sour taste in our mouth,” said Malawsky. “But despite the same group of guys we got back, it’s a brand new season and they’ve got to create their own identity.”
“We really got to take that experience as a learning experiences.” opined Roughnecks captain, Andrew McBride. “Take some of those lessons about playing in close games and about playing in pressure situations and transfer them over to this year.”
Calgary had a dissapointing end to their season when they came within two minutes of winning the Champion’s Cup. With their roster largely unchanged, they will look to replicate their success but cap it off with a title, rather than disappointment.
The Roughnecks lost long-time forward Scott Ranger to retirement and will look to fill that void on the right side with Matthew Dinsdale and Karsen Leung.
“Calgary has — in my opinion — the best offensive group in the league,” said Vancouver captain Curtis Hodgson. “They work really well together, they have good chemistry, and they’ve been playing together for a long time.”
Losing Ranger may sting, but the team still boasts some of the league’s top scorers and playmakers. Anchored by the number two point getter in the NLL (105), Shawn Evans and NLL leading goal scorer (51), Dane Dobbie, the team will still be extremely effective.
The only big change for the Roughnecks is the addition of free-agent defenceman, Jeff Moleski who returns to Calgary after a four-year stint with the Stealth. The home opener will be an emotional one for Moleski who faces off against his former team in his first game back with the Roughnecks.
“It showed a lot of confidence in our coaching staff and our general manager that we kept most of our group together” said McBride. “And bringing in Jeff Moleski was a big addition for us on the back-end.”
In the opposing locker room, there are a plethora of new faces.
“We’re very excited about the guys that we’ve added.” said Stealth coach Dan Perreault.
“We’ve got new faces, a lot of the guys, they have experience but just playing together on the offensive end and the back end, that’s our challenge right now.” said Perreault. “Just to make sure we’re all on the same page and everybody will be going hard come Saturday night. “
The Stealth made easily the biggest splash in the offseason when they executed multiple blockbuster trades to acquire Joel McCready, Johnny Powless, and Rory Smith.
“We’ve got a new group.” said Hodgson. “We lost some guys, but we got some guys like Rory Smith, Tyler Burton, and got some new young rookies.”
The Stealth also signed all six of their 2014 draft picks, headlined by 12th overall pick, Conrad Chapman. With the addition of some young, yet experienced stars and a bunch of rookies, Vancouver is hoping for a quick rebound from their 4-14 record last season.
In 2014, the two franchises battled four times, with Calgary sweeping the season series. The Roughnecks will look to duplicate that effort this season in the three match-ups against the Stealth.
“We honestly believe we know what we need to do to get to the top of the mountain,” remarked Malawsky. “And we’re going to slowly start climbing that come Saturday night. There’s a lot of excitement in our group.”
“Starting at home in front of our crowd, which turned into one of the best home floor advantages in the NLL, is absolutely huge for us.” said McBride. “We take a lot of pride in trying to be able to defend the home turf and it’ll be a good opportunity to start that on Saturday night.”